European Journal of Law Reform

Article

Increased Uptake of Surveillance Technologies During COVID-19

Implications for Democracies in the Global South

Keywords surveillance technology, platform economy, COVID-19, democracy, global south, belt and road initiative
Authors Alex Read
Author's information

Alex Read
Alex Read, democratic governance consultant for organisations including UNDP, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
  • Abstract

      Social change and introduction of new technologies have historically followed crises such as pandemics, and COVID-19 has seen increasing public tracking through the use of digital surveillance technology. While surveillance technology is a key tool for enhancing virus preparedness and reducing societal risks, the speed of uptake is likely to raise ethical questions where citizens are monitored and personal data is collected. COVID-19 has occurred during a period of democratic decline, and the predominant surveillance-based business model of the ‘platform economy’, together with the development and export of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered surveillance tools, carries particular risks for democratic development in the countries of the Global South. Increased use of surveillance technology has implications for human rights and can undermine the individual privacy required for democracies to flourish. Responses to these threats must come from new regulatory regimes and innovations within democracies and a renewed international approach to the threats across democracies of the Global North and South.

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